Transition Q&A:
Aidan Maartens

What did you hope for in terms of employment as you completed your PhD?

I already felt that a long-term career in research was unlikely, but thought it was worth giving it a go properly as a postdoc. So I approached the postdoc similarly to how I approached my PhD – I will probably do this for a couple of years, and then at the end I can think more seriously about where next.

What was your first post-PhD job?

A postdoc at the University of Cambridge with Nick Brown. I had a lot of fun fly-pushing, cloning and confocaling!

What do you do now?

I now work for Development, a journal for developmental biology and stem cells. I’m the Community Manager of their blog, the Node, and also work an Online Editor writing research highlights, conducting interviews and more recently commissioning and editing front section material. Both parts of my role involve a lot of social media.

How did you get this job?

Midway through my postdoc I decided that I should look for something outside of the lab, and science communication seemed a good bet as I had always liked writing and reading about different areas of science. I set up a science blog to practice writing about research and bulk up my CV, and I think that helped show I was serious about the transition. And just at that transition point, the job was advertised – it was tremendously fortuitous timing!

What kind of tasks do you do on a daily and weekly basis?

There’s the day to day running of the Node – managing users, helping them with posts, commissioning new pieces and writing things myself. And there’s a lot of Twitter for information gathering as well as promotion of what we do here. Plus lots of emails and in-house meetings. I’ll regularly go to conferences to keep up to date on the latest developments in the field, and also travel to meet people to interview.

What most surprises you about your job?

I guess the biggest surprise was moving to a 9 to 5 schedule.

What are your favourite parts of your job?

The 9 to 5 schedule! In fact, more than just that – I love interviewing people, and finding and sharing great stories from science. It’s also satisfying to help people write about and promote their work in an informal way.

What would you change about it if you could?

More conferences in exotic locations.

What’s next for you, career-wise?

I’ve been here for a year and a half, and I’m starting to think about this now. Given the skills I’ve gained there’s quite a broad range of possibilities.

What advice or thoughts do you have for PhDs in career transition now?

“Alternative careers” is a nonsense. The PhD is not just training you for a postdoc: it’s training you to think, problem solve, communicate. That being said, a short postdoc can be a lot of fun (just think of research without the terror of a submission deadline and without the PI’s administrative burden!)

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Aidan Maartens received his PhD from the University of Sussex in 2012, studying the development of fruit fly wings. He left research in 2016 to join the team at Development, a developmental biology and stem cell journal in Cambridge.

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